Teaching by Example: The Road to Galapagos
Photo courtesy of Tui De RoyThe Toyota International Teacher Program Heads to the Galapagos IslandsEvery year, the Toyota International Teacher Program sends a group of the United State's top secondary school teachers to a far-flung locale, where they get an opportunity to personally engage global environmental issues in foreign communities and ecosystems. Past study tours have taken groups to Japan and Costa Rica. Now, the destination is the birthplace of evolutionary science itself: the Galapagos Islands.
And this time, Toyota is letting me tag along to document the proceedings.So for the next two weeks, I'll be following the group of acclaimed educators through the Florida Everglades, Ecuador's capitol Quito, and finally, to the Galapagos Islands. Once there, the teachers will study the islands' singular habitats for use in their curriculum back home, join the local education community in discussion on environmental topics, and collaborate on conservation projects.
I'll have a front row seat, and I'll be posting daily dispatches about the progress and revelations that occur in the field. The teachers' frontline engagement makes for a unique opportunity to examine the current state of the islands, and to delve into the inner workings behind the preservation efforts on one of the world's most famed—and most endangered—ecosystems.
Galapagos in Danger Due to its incredible biological, cultural, and ecological importance, (and of course to its starring role in the Origin of Species) Galapagos was among the first locales to be deemed a World Heritage Site. In 1959, the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5 percent of the land on the islands national park territory, and forebode further colonization.
But just last year, the Galapagos were placed on the World Heritage in Danger list. TreeHugger ranked the islands as one of the world's most endangered lands soon after. An expanding human population, irresponsible tourism, the continuing intrusion of non-native species like pigs, goats, and poultry, and illegal fishing activities are all daunting threats to Darwin's hallowed biomes. And though Ecuador announced measures to protect the Galapagos, their efficacy remains to be seen.
As the teachers study the islands' habitats, enter in dialogue with local educators, and get acquainted with the multifaceted conservation efforts, I believe a unique portrait of modern day Galapagos will emerge—a unique portrait that will potentially shed light on the plights of endangered environments around the globe.
We'll get to see how the teachers engage global-scale conservation issues and forge progress in the environmental community, little by little. We'll see what it might take to preserve ancient, endangered ecosystems in the face of pressures from a global economy and a slew of looming 21st century threats. We'll see what it might take to save the Galapagos.